ARTH406: Buddhist Art

Course Syllabus for "ARTH406: Buddhist Art"

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This course serves as an introduction to the Buddhist artistic traditions of South, Southeast, and East Asia, as well as the Himalayas.  It is organized into four units based on the development of Buddhist schools and artistic traditions in Southeast Asia, the Himalayas, and China, Korea, and Japan.  The first unit surveys the core tenets of Buddhism, Buddhist iconography, and early Buddhist art and architecture in India.  The second unit reviews the development of Buddhist art and architecture in Southeast Asia, focusing on the patronage of Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism by rulers in the modern countries of Indonesia, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Thailand.  Unit three examines the particular form of Vajrayana Buddhism and its artistic traditions that developed in the Himalayas.  The final unit traces the spread of Mahayana Buddhist art and architecture into China and later into Korea and Japan via the Silk Roads.  All four units highlight the interaction between Buddhist doctrine, art, and architecture; Buddhism’s adaptability to local contexts; and the commissioning of Buddhist art and architecture to legitimize political, social, and cultural power. After this course, you should be able to identify major Buddhist monuments and artworks of South, Southeast, and East Asia, as well as the Himalayas.  Through this course, you will gain an understanding of how Buddhism and Buddhist art developed in each of these regional contexts.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Identify the core beliefs of Buddhism, major Buddhist schools, and basic Buddhist iconography.
  • Identify major works of Buddhist art and Buddhist monuments from South, Southeast, and East Asia, as well as the Himalayas.
  • Identify the major developments in Buddhist doctrine and Buddhist art and architecture, as well as the relationship between the two as the religion spread throughout Southeast Asia, East Asia, and the Himalayas.

Course Requirements

In order to take this course you must:

√    Have access to a computer.

√    Have continuous broadband Internet access.

√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins (e.g., Adobe Reader or Flash) and software.

√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.

√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.).

√    Be competent in the English language.

√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

√    Have completed ARTH101: Art Appreciation and Techniques, ARTH110: Introduction to Western Art History—Pre-Historic to High Gothic, and ARTH111: Introduction to Western Art History—Proto-Renaissance to Contemporary Art

Course Information

Welcome to ARTH406, Buddhist Art.  Below, please find general information on this course and its requirements. 

Primary Resources: This course makes use of a variety of different online resources, including:

Requirements for Completion: To complete this course, you must work through all the assigned resources (readings, interactives, lectures, and videos), complete two assignments (“Guided Observation 1: Buddhist Iconography and Kushan Buddhist Sculpture”and “Guided Observation 2: Understanding Buddhist Architecture”), and pass the Final Exam with a grade of 70% or more.  Please note that you will only receive an official grade on the final exam.  If you do not receive a 70% or higher, you are welcome to take the exam again.

Time Commitment: Approximately 135 hours.

Tips/Suggestions: Before beginning this course, it may be useful to review ARTH101: Art Appreciation and Art Techniques, Units 1–4, which focus on general art history vocabulary, materials, and techniques.  This knowledge, combined with the more specific vocabulary covered in this course, will be useful when discussing Buddhist art and architecture.

Table of Contents: You can find the course's units at the links below.